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Shrooms to quit smoking, who's using drugs, and a clarification on Ebola. This is Healthcare Triage News.

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John Green -- Executive Producer
Stan Muller -- Director, Producer
Aaron Carroll -- Writer
Mark Olsen -- Graphics
Shrooms to quit smoking, drug use in America, and a clarification on Ebola. This is Healthcare Triage News.


First up is a story that you might've missed because it didn't get nearly the coverage of many other "panic" type stories. But I think it's worth your attention.

The Journal of Psycho-pharmacology recently published a manuscript entitled, "Pilot Study of the 5HT2AR-Agonist Psilocybin and the Treatment of Tobacco Addiction." The gist of this study was that they gathered 15 otherwise-healthy, including mental health, smokers, who had all tried and failed to quit smoking in the past.

They were all given a moderate dose of psilocybin on their intended quit date. Later, they were given a high dose of psilocybin--the active ingredient in magic mushrooms.

The drug was given to patients in a controlled session which lasted six to seven hours. They were all monitored by the research team while they were, well, tripping. The subjects generally wore eye-shades and listen to music, and they were encouraged to "relax and focus on their inner experiences."

Look, I was as skeptical as many of you likely are right about now. I mean, how is this even legal? I couldn't help but snicker when one of the authors said, and I'm quoting, "When administered after careful preparation and in a therapeutic context, psilocybin can lead to deep reflection about one's life and spark motivation to change." Right.

But the results were somewhat amazing. 12 of the 15, or 80% of participants, reported abstinence--complete abstinence!--from smoking at six months. That's an insanely large quit rate! All but two of the participants said that the psilocybin sessions were among the ten most meaningful experiences of their lives.

It was a small study. It was open-label. And it had no controls. It involves using an abused drug to treat dependence on another. But it's really hard to quit smoking. 80% in six months? Someone better do some follow-up work.

Speaking of drug abuse, though, our second story comes from the US Department of Human Health and Services, which just released its results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. They interview about 67,500 people each year, and it's the best source for information on the rates of illegal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco in the United States.

It's not all good news, but not in the ways you might thing. The use of illicit drugs in adults age 50 to 54 has risen from 3% of people in 2003 to 7.9% ten years later in 2013. In 55 to 59-year-olds, it went up 2% to 5.7%. In adults age 60 to 64 years old, it went up from 1.1% to 3.9%. What's up with Grandma and Grandpa?

Even people 26 and older went up, from 5.6% to 7.3%. Young adults age 18 to 25 rose just a bit, from 20.3% to 21.5%.

But kids age 12 to 17 dropped, from 11.2% to 8.8%. Yes, kids were the only group that went down in illicit drug use.

Even in marijuana use, kids dropped. Boys went from 8.6% to 7.9%, and girls from 7.2% to 6.2%.

But when pundits and the media people talk about "rising drug use," do you think that the public imagines adults over age 50? or kids? Someday kids are going to tell us to shut up, and they'll have every right to.

Finally, I want to clarify some things I've said in the past few weeks about Ebola. When I say that people in developed countries should stop panicking about the disease in their backyards, I'm referring to their catastrophizing about their own predicaments. They're all fine.

But that doesn't mean that the Ebola outbreaks in Western Africa aren't a crisis. Or that people in those areas shouldn't be concerned. And for goodness' sakes, people in the developed world should be concerned for them, too. This outbreak is simply terrible, and if we don't get a handle on it soon, it's going to get much, much worse.

As two physicians recently said in the New England Journal of Medicine, this outbreak is, and I'm quoting, the "result of the combination of dysfunctional health systems, international indifference, high population mobility, local customs, densely populated capitals, and a lack of trust in authorities after years of armed conflict." It's also because we've been responding to the crisis far too slowly.

This is a horrific crisis for the people of West Africa. We should be focusing on them, and get them the help that they need. We should stop worrying about ourselves. When I tell you to quit panicking about Ebola, that's what I'm referring to.